Every skier has heard of Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff Canada. These legendary Alberta ski resorts are a must ski for their high-alpine terrain and stunning Canadian Rocky scenery. But here’s another Banff ski area you must check out… Mt. Norquay!
Norquay is just 7 switchbacks above downtown of Banff and its one of the most historic, happy, family friendly ski areas in Alberta. Its not huge, 190 acres, but it has terrain for everyone – a tame learning area near the beautiful base lodge, a terrain park for kicks and kids, a dozen well-groomed Blue trails off the Mystic lift, and Black Diamond au-naturelle expert runs galore off the reliable North American summit double.
The family vibe of Norquay is fantastic, just 4 miles from town, you park near the slopes, by the beautiful post and beam Cascade base lodge. Skier services, rentals, snowboard and ski school are all within a snow ball’s toss. This is not a big sprawling resort… in a good way. It’s homey, humble, un-hurried.
Snowtubing? Yes, Norquay’s got that, day and night on an impressive multi-lane park right near the base lodge. The pitch to Norquay’s tubing park looks ideal, so adults just might enjoy sliding in a few exciting descents too – almost guaranteed laughter – and tubing requires very little athleticism or learning curve… by the way.
Night skiing? Yes, Norquay offers night skiing most weekends, Friday and Saturday nights under the lights on the Cascade quad which serves a gentle green run,– so its tame, nothing challenging. The Terrain Park is under the lights as well, with several hits and rails perfectly positioned right under the lift for spectating during your chair ascents.
History & heritage? Yes, Norquay has that in volumes. Skiing began here in 1926, making it one of the oldest ski areas in North America, not just Canada. Ski Trail names have tremendous symbolism, remembering local characters and champions – like “Wiegele” – honoring Mike Wiegele who grew up skiing here before founding his own heli-ski company in 1970. “Crazy Canuck” reveres Canada’s wild World Cup skiers of 1970s and 80s – Dave Irwin, Dave Murray, Steve Podborski, and Ken Read. Read Norquay’s trail map, explore the mountain, and figure out the trail name references for added entertainment.
Norquay’s scenery is dramatic, especially from its 6,900’ summit reached by the North America chair. Mount Rundle at 9,672’ across the Bow River Valley towers above Banff with its sheer windswept crest, and Norquay has the best view of this most-photographed peak in the Lake Louise area.
Not expert but want to sightsee? You can ride the summit North American lift up for the scenery, and download back to the base. Weekends, you can dine mountaintop at Norquay’s Cliff House Bistro, a retro-cool building with magnificent views and a top Chef serving fantastic cuisine at this elevation with a European chalet flair. This vintage building was a 1950 tea room visited by many celebrities over time, inquire within.
For experts, Norquay’s North American chair is a black diamond paradise of ungroomed terrain, bumps, steeps, glades – exciting terrain that takes me back to skiing before big boulevards and groomers. Good news, you have the methodical double chair to ride up again to regain your vertical vigor.
Lunch and après ski, The Lone Pine Pub in Cascade Lodge is the place to be. This lofty, comfy, casual spot has a bar, tables and views from the top floor, surrounded by ski memorabilia. Local beer and cocktails at the bar, and an enticing menu of home-made soups, salads, chili, even tasty Gorditas with table service will have you debating if you should just stay, or go outside and play some more. Lone Pine makes our list of great après ski bars in Canada.
Norquay is festive, with weekly and annual events that bring together locals and visitors, amateurs and pros alike. Ski races like the Bozo Cup, park jams and “Stay & Après” are a few of the fun goings-on at Norquay. Did we mention there is a free shuttle to bring you back to Banff?
Norquay is the perfect place your first day of a Banff Ski Big 3 ski week to Banff’s Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Norquay sells midday tickets starting at noon, even skiing by the hour or two in the afternoon! You’ll love the views, the vibe, and the convenience from town. You may well find yourself circling back for more Norquay, with a sense you belong to the ski community here, at the end of the your Banff ski trip.
Norquay Ski Stats:
Summit Elevation 6,900’, 8,054’ hike to skiing
Vertical: 1,650’, 503m
190 Acres of Skiing
60 trails, 4 lifts including a high speed quad
Tubing Park, Terrain Park, Night Skiing
Free Shuttle from downtown Banff